Wednesday, February 4, 2004

Food, decay can turn breath sour

By Peggy O'Farrell
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Dentists get to know a lot about bad breath.

Dr. Barry Gibberman, a Montgomery dentist, calls halitosis "an occupational hazard."

"We're on the receiving end," he says.

Food, bacteria, and tooth and gum decay are among the usual suspects for bad breath.

Short-term bad breath usually comes from "eating smelly food: Garlic, onions or an overdose of Skyline. That's pretty easily corrected," Gibberman says. Brush your teeth, pop an Altoid or chew some gum, and the odor will probably go away.

Bacteria on the teeth, tongue and gums are usually the cause for chronic bad breath.

As bacteria multiply in the mouth, they produce volatile sulfur compounds, the source of the classic "rotten egg" smell associated with halitosis.

People whose mouths are chronically dry are more likely to have bad breath because there's not enough saliva to wash away the stink-producing bacteria.

That thick coating of white goo - actually the residue left by a buildup of bacteria combined with dry mouth - is also the culprit for "morning mouth."

Gum and tooth decay also cause a hefty percentage of halitosis, Gibberman says.

Getting rid of the decay usually gets rid of most of the offensive odor, he says. That usually means a trip to the dentist's chair instead of the corner drugstore for a pack of gum.

Bad breath can also be a warning sign of chronic sinus infection and some more serious diseases, including diabetes, cirrhosis of the liver, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and kidney failure.

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